Why do my lungs hurt?
November 23, 2009 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Lung pain brought on by sudden exercise - possible causes/solutions?

A number of years ago, when I used to jog frequently, I got sick with a bad cold right around a time when it was cold outside and I was jogging almost every day. My lungs took quite a beating, and to this day they burn whenever I exert myself outside in weather that's a bit on the cooler side. Not a big deal - the weather around here is nasty enough that I switched to exercising indoors.

Today at work I had the same burning feeling show up when they emptied the building for a drill (and I snuck back inside to get my stuff). My upper lungs were burning pretty badly, but I feel like I barely exerted myself enough to warrant it - just a little brisk walking and a flight of stairs. The burning got worse as I took deeper breaths, and I could hear a bit of wheeziness in my breaths. It seemed to peak a few minutes after I stopped moving and then went away entirely about fifteen or twenty minutes later. All better now, except that my upper lungs still feel a tad sensitive when I breathe deeply. Normally I'd think it was my usual cold sensitivity, but it was quite warm outside today - warmer than the room I was in, in fact.

So, have I somehow irreparably fucked up my lungs? Is it a mild exercise-induced asthma? I figure I'll ask my NP next time I go, but I'd like some possible explanations as well as suggestions for what I can do to avoid this kind of thing in the future. (I'll be visiting a cold climate next month, and I'm not looking forward to the lung-burning there.)

If it helps matters: I'm pretty badly out of shape at the moment, but working on it. I exercise (when I manage to go) in a gym - elliptical, bike, treadmill - at a moderate pace, and haven't had any breathing problems there. I'm a nonsmoker with no allergies that I'm aware of. I live in a warm, humid climate, so that's the kind of air I'm used to breathing.
posted by Salieri to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
Sounds like exercise-induced bronchospasm. IANAD. Get it checked out. If it's EIB, you'll probably get an inhaler. Meanwhile, put a scarf over your face when you exercise to warm up the air.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:11 PM on November 23, 2009

I have exercise induced asthma and it's much worse in cold air than warm. I was a runner growing up and had terrible hacking coughs all winter every winter until I got diagnosed. Like you I live in a warm, humid place and there are days when turning on the air conditioning full blast on my face in the car can trigger asthma. The nice thing is that it's easily controlled by a standard albuterol inhaler, and prevented by using the inhaler before exercising. Also, going swimming in the winter in a nice humid indoor pool is great for it.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:15 PM on November 23, 2009

yeah, sounds just like my exercise induced asthma (which weirdly feels different than my allergy induced asthma)
posted by nadawi at 4:41 PM on November 23, 2009

I have exercised induced asthma, and I also feel out of breath when I transition very quickly from a warm environment to a cold environment and then exert myself. Albuterol pre-exertion helps.
posted by meowzilla at 6:10 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing exercise induced asthma - sounds very like my asthma attacks. Brought on by cold and or exercise, and more strongly by a combo.

But your lungs are important - go see a doctor. You might have African Melting Lung Fever.

I'm not telling if that's real or not - you'll have to talk to a doctor to find out ;)
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:32 PM on November 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for the feedback and personal stories. Best answers all around, as far as I'm concerned. I'll talk to the doctor and see what they have to say, but the exercise induced asthma sounds like it fits a lot of the symptoms.

Not that I'm particularly concerned about African Melting Lung Fever. Brazilian Exploding Lung Disease is what you really have to take seriously!
posted by Salieri at 8:28 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

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